May 26, 2009

Human Nature of Jesus

I've been finding Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light very inspiring. I've been savoring it off and on for like a year now and am only about 3/4ths through it, but it feels more like devotional reading for me than most of the spiritual classics.

Mother Teresa seemed to come to a greater and greater understanding of God's humbleness, and lately I've been mining the theological vein of Christ's earthly journey. One thing that has often bothered me is how the portrayal of Jesus in the gospels differs somewhat from the Church. Chesterton made mention of this in his The Everlasting Man, how the Church depicts a warmer, gentler, more accessible view.

A brother-in-law sometimes says that he thinks the notion of eternal life is a little too neat for a species that recognizes it will die. In other words: wishful thinking. Similarly I've been afflicted by doubt that the Church's portrayal of the universal love of Christ might be a bit of wishful thinking. There was always the sense that maybe, just maybe, Christ loved just the elect, that is only the non-Pharisees and those with much faith. Maybe we are modern-day Pharisees and are thus unloved.

But what's been helpful is that I've become convinced that He did change in his human love over the course of His life. I used to think of Jesus as "fully formed" in love if not by adolescence than certainly by the beginning of his ministry. But now I think his love did grow. Perhaps Mother Teresa's deepening realization of the humility of God led me to a view with a greater emphasis of His humanity.

It cheered me and reminds me we are not self-deluding. While I trust (I hope!) the Church, I feel a whole lot better when there is no cognitive dissonance between the Church and the gospels.

Christ's love for the Pharisees (as a group) seemed a bit obscured in the gospel text during his ministry. But if we see Christ's love as growing during his Passion it's different. One is struck by how few harsh admonishments there were while He underwent His passion. He didn't condemn the bad thief, he merely promised the good paradise. That is...a change, at least from his early ministry days.

Since Jesus was like us in all things but sin and I wonder if He had to grow even in love. While we may take on faith that he loved the Pharisees and those of litle faith, there was little outward expression of that during his active ministry, either verbally or in the form of miracles.

I think the change came in fulfilment of the Scriptures, of how the empty are fed and the rich sent away empty. He was rich, spiritually, until he took on our sins during the Passion. And his love paradoxically grew then, perhaps as the result of feeling empty, of being bereft of the consolations of His Father's love and presence. When he started to feel forsaken he reached out in a way unique - actually needing his apostles. He wanted them to remain awake an hour with him.

His love for all men seemed to explode during that time. His cry "watch an hour with me" in the Garden was something that the apostles must have been surprised by. And then when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!", an unconditional love that I can't remember him saying anything like earlier in His ministry (instead there was an exultation in the learned being blind). And rather than scorning Thomas's lack of faith after the Resurrection, he revealed Himself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. This is well worth mulling over.

Jim McCullough
Our Lady of Grace Church
Greensboro, NC